Bubba’s 1st Birthday Cake

Edit: I haven’t been on my own blog for aaaaages, that I didn’t even realise I wrote this post and didn’t even post it. Doofus! I wrote this wrote this post in October (I think), last year…

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been 14 months since my last blog post. So much has changed since that last post – construction on our house started and finished, we moved into our new house and most importantly I had a little Baby Boy in September 2011!!

Which brings me back to this post. A few weeks back my little Bubba turned one, and for his cake I decided to re-create his favourite tv character – Hoot the owl from Giggle and Hoot on ABC2. The kid just loves Hoot. If he’s in another part of the house when Giggle and Hoot comes on the tele, he’ll crawl/run in his walker to look at the tv.

I considered doing a 3D version of the cake, but I had quite a bit on, so I decided to make the cake just using 2 different sized round cakes and joining them together. The head was chocolate mud and the body was white chocolate mud. The recipe and decorating techniques of the cakes was from the Planet Cake (1st) book. In hindsight, I should’ve Googled other Hoot cakes before I did the decorating around the eyes and eyebrows, but I got so caught up in doing the cake, that I totally forgot and only remembered when the icing had already hardened and set onto the blue fondant icing.

I got quite a few compliments for the cake, but the best one was from my son – when he saw the cake before I finished it and he started to say “Hoo Hoo” just like he does when Hoot comes on the tv.

Now, time to start thinking about what to do for 2nd Birthday…

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Mixy’s Birthday Cake

A long time ago, each time I saw the Planet Cake book in the book shop, I would go through the pages and ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ to myself at all the cake creations on it.  If I didn’t have enough time to flip through the book, I would just stop for a sec and admire the cake on the cover and quickly move on.

The cake on the cover is the designer handbag cake, usually called the ‘Chanel bag Cake’ and ever since I told Mixy I wanted the book, she said if you ever get the book, you have to make the Chanel handbag for my birthday.  A few months down the track, my birthday wishes came true and I received the book for my birthday.  Fast forward 10 months later, I finally make the Chanel Cake for Mixy’s birthday.  It was the second cake in my New Years Resolution and an easy next step up from doing round cakes.

I read and re-read the steps quite a few time making sure I gave myself plenty of time because I always find I’ll read the steps and it’s not until you get stuck in and decorating that you realise it takes you way longer than anticipated to do the steps that seem so easy-peasy in the book.  I made sure I had all the necessary tools, equipment such as boards and templates, enough fondant, gel food colours etc etc etc.  I gave myself a good week to make it as I was doing it either after work when I was on morning shift or before work when I was afternoon shift.

Here’s a quick version of what I did:

Day 1

  • Bake the cake
  • Allow to cool completely ie overnight
  • If using coloured fondant colour your fondant now so it has time to develop and you can adjust if necssary

Day 2

  • Cut the cake into the desired shape for the hand bag and position the cake on the decorating board (a piece of hard cardboard that is the same size as the base of the cake – makes it easy to pick up and move the cake)
  • Cut the cake into 3 layers and brush each layer with syrup (to keep moist)
  • Sandwich them back together with ganache. Use any cake off cuts to fill in any large holes and gaps
  • Apply the first covering of ganache around the sides and the top
  • Leave to set overnight
  • I also made the black handles at this stage as the black fondant I was using was very sticky and needed plenty of time to dry before I could handle it again to attach to the cake

Day 3

  • Hot knife the ganache to remove any large ‘jaggered’ bits
  • Apply another layer of ganache this time paying special attention to try and get it as smooth as possible
  • Leave to set this should take about 30 minutes, depending on how warm it is
  • While waiting knead your fondant so it’s nice and pliable
  • Once the ganache is set on the cake (dry to touch), brush the ganache all over with syrup so that the fonant can adhere to the cake
  • Roll out the fondant to the desired thickness (I usually try and do it about 5mm) and shape
  • Place the cake on the display board using either royal icing or ganache to hold it in place on the board
  • Cover the cake with the fondant, smoothing as you go with plastic smoothers of little pvc sheets to get it as smooth as possible.  Trim away any excess
  • Add the quilting pattern to the cake using a stitching tool (bought from a haberdashery shop).  This needs to be done while the fondant is still soft to touch.  If done once the fondant has hardened it will either not leave a ‘deep’ enough imprint or end up cracking the fondant

Day 4

  • Add the rest of the embellishments – zipper, handles, piping along the edges, key charm or monogram letters
  • Stand back and admire your handy work 🙂

Day 5

  • Should’ve been about taking photos of the finished cake.  But no.  I got side tracked doing this, that and the other, and before I realised, it was 5pm and I still needed to have a shower, get ready, and deliver the cake to the restaurant before heading to the cocktail bar for pre-dinner drinks!
  • So all I have is some lame-arse photos, most of them taken in my messy kitchen right before leaving home.

Handbag Cake sans handles and charm

Zip Detail

Zip after one coat of 'gold' paint

The Finished Product

Hubby’s Birthday Cake

The first cake on the list for my New Years Cake Resolution was Hubby’s birthday cake.  I didn’t have any grand plans, just a round cake covered in fondant (plastic icing/ready to roll icing) with a few decorations stuck on the outside.

Using my trusty Bible – the Planet Cake book, I followed the recipe for the chocolate mud cake and then followed the directions on how to handle the fondant and how to cover the cake.

Here’s some photos from the process:

Cocoa and flour waiting to be sifted

Baked cake cut into 3 ready to be doused in syrup then sandwiched together with ganache.  Mmm, more chocolate 😀

The sandwiched cake on the board.  Next step is to trim any of the overhanging bits to make sure that the cake is the same size as the board

Ganache covered cake.  This is the first of many ganache steps and probably one of the most important (and possibly most time consuming) steps in making fondant covered cakes.  If the cake is not ganached smooth here, the covered cake won’t have a smooth finish.  The first time I put it on, it’s purely to cover and fill any holes and make the sides level.  I liken it to plastering or  filling wall holes with filler.  I put it on nice and thick, but smooth off any excess.  I then stick it in the freezer for no more than 20 minutes to set the ganache (or if you have time, you can leave it overnight to set).  In the meantime, I boil the kettle and pour a mug of boiling water.  Once the 20 minutes is up, I bring the cake out of the freezer and dip a cranked palette knife into the hot water and trim off any jaggered pieces of ganache off and smooth out the ganache.

Wait for the areas where the hot knife has touched to dry and add another layer of ganache, this time only a small thin layer, paying particular attention to areas that are not particularly smooth or level.

I realised early into kneading the fondant, it wasn’t as easy as it looks on the YouTube videos.  Fondant doesn’t like humidity much.  I just couldn’t get the balance right between warm sticky fondant and dry cracking fondant from adding too much cornflour to stop it sticking on the bench.  And trying to knead 1.5kg of fondant on the kitchen bench when you’re not very tall is not an easy task!  I have since put in the request to Hubby, that when we finally buy our own house and can afford to do it, I want an adjustable height bench top!!  It needs to be adjustable as Hubby is 6ft 4 and I’m only a measly 5ft (Waah!)

Edit: I’ve since learned that if you buy good quality fondant (like Bakels) it makes your life so much easier

So after maybe an hour of kneading and trying to roll out fondant, I got it as thin as I could and not too thin that I that I couldn’t lift it without it tearing off the bench or off the rolling pin and I was left with fondant that was nearly a centimetre thick in some places.  And because I wasn’t too confidant about placing the fondant on the cake, I just pretty much threw it on and was left with a few air pockets.  You can just see the pin-holes on the top of the cake where I pierced the fondant with a needle to try and release the pocket and smooth it out.

In the Planet Cakes book, their race car cake had black, yellow and red race cars decorating the sides of the cake, but I thought that was a little too intricate for me, for my first fondant cake, so I just used some cookie cutters of a car and a motorbike for car and bike mad Hubby.  Plus I didn’t have any gel colours to colour the icing the dark shades or red and yellow (I had bought some black icing), all I had was some liquid food colouring from the supermarket, hence all the pastel blue, green and orange.

And with some letters cut out with some alphabet cutter and following the Planet Cake decoration idea with the chequered flag, Hubby’s birthday cake is finished!

Halloween Cupcakes

I don’t really ‘celebrate’ Halloween, but this year, I was invited to a friends Halloween party and not wanting to turn up empty handed, I decided to make some cupcakes.

I made two designs – monsters and eyeballs.  The monster design is from the Planet Cakes (first) book.

Monster 1

I thought I’d give them all a bit of personality by changing their eyes a little.

Monster 2

I came across some eyeball lollies at Aldi and thought they’d make an easy design for the second batch of cupcakes.  Although I felt I should’ve put a health warning on the lollies on the eyeball cupcakes as it was just a gelatinous ball of ewwe, it almost felt like rubber.

Eyeball cupcakes sans 'blood'

At first I was going to leave them with the plain white fondant, but I thought it needed a little something else, so I added a drop of red food colouring and let it drip off the eye ball and run off the fondant.

Bloody Eyeballs!

And it was a big hit with the kids, though next time if I know there’s going to be toddlers eating it, I won’t use the black fondant again, lots of sticky black hands and faces!

 

Grroar!

Lorinda Seto Piping Course

With all my cake decorating so far, if I needed to write anything on the cake, I would just use cut outs because I just couldn’t do it properly.  I’d practice and practice with pen and paper, but when it came time to do it on the cake/cupcakes with icing and piping bag, I’d stuff up the style and spacing and it just looked really bodgy.

Look at that bodgy piping

So I decided to do a piping course.  I’ve always admired Lorinda Seto’s cakes and when I saw that she was offering a piping course, I signed up.

It was a half day course from 10am till 1:30 and we started with learning how to mix the royal icing powder with a small amount of water to get the right consistency for pipe work.  I’d always made my royal icing from scratch, but I think from now on, I’ll always get this mixed powder as there’s no need to fumble around with egg whites and it also means I can make up a small amounts as all recipes I’ve come across for royal icing have always said to use 1 egg white, 250 grams icing sugar and some lemon juice, which makes a fair bit and I usually only use half of it.

After watching Lorinda make a batch, we try mix our own at our own little stations set up with all the equipment we’ll need for the day.  Lorinda comes around to check everyone’s  icing to make sure it’s the right consistency – not too runny and thick enough to fall back on it self but still hold its peak.  And if it’s too thick and you’re close to the right consistency, all it takes is the smallest dab of water to make it perfect.

The next tip I learnt is so simple and has made my (cake decorating) life so much easier!!  When working with lots of different colours or different consistency of icing (ie thick for outlining and thinner for flooding), Lorinda said to put the icing in a plastic sandwich/freezer bag then insert that into your piping bag, cut the corner of the bag attach nozzle/tip and pipe as normal.  That way, when you need to change to a different icing, you’re just swapping the internal bag, cleaning your nozzles and don’t need to wash your piping bag.  What a fantastic idea!!

The first exercise was to practice little round balls.  Sounds easier than it is to do.  It’s all about getting squeezing the bag with the right amount of pressure then knowing when to stop squeezing so you get the right size.  After some (ie quite a bit) of practice I finally got the hang of it.

Example of small balls used as the border (though some didn’t survive the trip home)

The next exercise was ‘snails’, which is like the little round balls but with a tail.  I found these a lot easier to do, because you just flow from one snail to the next.

Once we got the hang of balls, we moved onto piping straight lines, curved lines and shapes.  Then we had another demonstration from Lorinda on how to pipe letter and words.  I always thought when piping thicker parts of the letter, you’d go back over it, but no, all you do is go a little slower so more icing is piped in that area and quicker at the thinner bits of the letter.  Hopefully you can see the different thickness in the letter in the photo above.

The border in the above photos were done freehand and the monogram letter was done by tracing the mirror-image version of the letter on baking/tracing paper from printed out fonts using a pencil then transferring the image to the iced cookie by putting the traced out letter, pencil side down, on the cookie and tracing it again, so that the pencil marks on the cookie transfer onto it.  Easy Peasy!
We then practised ‘icing writing’  on iced practice boards, practicing the more common words – ‘congratulations’ and ‘happy birthday’.

Last exercise for the day was the cute little bird cage cookies.  Except for the little bird, they weren’t too hard to do, just requiring a steady hand.

Pretty Bird!

The bird was a little tricky, but as there were pretty good instructions in the manual provided, it didn’t take too long to get right.

Caged bird

At this stage, I was glad it was the end of the class as my hand was starting to get quite sore from squeezing the bag and the neck ache was creeping in from leaning over the table trying to keep a steady hand.  God help me if I did this for a living! After a light lunch we were homeward bound.

A few weeks later, I decided to put my newly learnt skills to practice and made some monogram cupcakes for a friend’s birthday.  Still a little bodgy, but not too bad if I say so myself!

Busy Little Bee

It’s been a busy week for me this week.  All my free time has been taken up with cake making and decorating.

Baby shower blocks

A while ago I saw a cake design for some baby blocks from both Faye Cahill and my copy of  the Confetti Cakes Book and I’d been wanting to make it, but with no kids of my own I had to wait for the right opportunity to come along.  So I was very excited when a friend who’s pregnant and lives in Adelaide said she was coming to Sydney to have her baby shower 🙂

I started off with a 20cm square white chocolate mudcake with white chocolate ganache. I then split it into 3 layers, cut it up and shaped it into 4 blocks (I only used the 3 best ones) then covered it with ready to roll icing.  And thanks to my friend, Miss P, I’ve been introduced to Bakels RTR icing.  This stuff is FABULOUS!!  Previously I’d only worked with the Orchard’s brand of RTR fondant as it was very easy to get (available in supermarkets) and not too expensive.  Miss P need fondant for a birthday cake, cupcakes and cookies she was making for her son’s birthday and could only buy the Bakels fondant in a 7kg block.  So as I was about to buy some Orchard’s fondant, I thought I’d take the punt and buy some Bakels off her.

Like I said, this stuff is faaabulous!  Very pliable, not very sticky when being rolled out, doesn’t crack when you roll it out and pick it up, doesn’t dry out too quickly and if it does start to get dry, just needs a little bit of a knead in your warm hands to get it back to lovely soft icing.   I think I’m in love ❤

2 B or not 2 B

Anyways, I think I’ve digressed a little.  The cake design wasn’t terribly hard, but if definitely pays to spend a lot of time on the ganaching stage to ensure smooth surfaces for the fondant to go on to.

Mum-to-be was very chuffed and hopefully had a block left to take back to daddy-to-be in Adelaide.

Not ready to give up my day job just yet...

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